The NBA playoffs begin today, and along with our series previews, we polled some of our staff to get their thoughts on who they pick to win each series and in h0w many games.
(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (8) Detroit Pistons
Benjamin Bornstein: Bucks in 4 games. Milwaukee is just too good and Detroit doesn’t have the firepower to match up with them. Giannis is going to prove why he’s in the MVP discussion.
Michael De Leon: Bucks in 5. It’ll be a gentleman’s sweep for Milwaukee. They drop one tops in Detroit but should have a firm grasp on this series.
Jason Guilbault: Bucks In 4 – Bucks sweep Detroit with ease, as they lack guard scoring and have a banged up Blake Griffin.
Agustin Ibanez-Baldor: Bucks in 5. People like to say that the Bucks lack of experience will bite them in the playoffs. Not in this matchup. They may drop 1 or 2 games due to inexperience (think the Sixers vs Heat last year) but they are going to steamroll their way to the second round.
Justin Lee: Bucks in 5
Bryan Oringher: Bucks in 5
Luke Zylstra: Bucks in 4. Detroit simply can’t match up with the Bucks, they have no way to contain Giannis and this series should be a quick one.
(2) Toronto Raptors vs. (7) Orlando Magic
Bornstein: Raptors in 6 games. I happen to think Orlando has great personnel to match up with Toronto. Not mention Toronto has its own postseason curse going on. But there’s no reason to think they can’t win their first-round matchup.
De Leon: Raptors in 5. While the Magic enter the postseason on a hot streak, Toronto has far too much talent and playoff Kawhi is a special Kawhi that the Magic will not have answers for.
Guilbault: Raptors in 4. The Orlando story is fun, but the Toronto roster is just too deep for the Magic to pull off an upset.
Ibanez-Baldor: Raptors in 4. People say that the Magic is the team most likely to upset. They won’t against the Raptors. Playoff Kawhi is a menace and the Magic’s best perimeter defender (Isaac) is out. If the Magic steal a game consider it a gift.
Lee: Raptors in 5
Oringher: Raptors in 4
Zylstra: Raptors in 5. Although the Magic have been hot as of late, the Raptors are scary when everyone plays, and Kawhi is one of the league’s best closers, while I’m not sure who Orlando’s closer is.
(3) Philadelphia 76ers vs. (6) Brooklyn Nets
Bornstein: 76ers in 5 games. Brooklyn was a great story this year, but the 76ers just have too much punch on offense and mismatches should be abundant for them.
De Leon: 76ers in 6. The Embiid injury will make this closer than it has to be, but Philadelphia has too much talent in the end.
Guilbault: 76ers in 6. Joel Embiid’s knee causes him to miss a few games, making this series a bit closer in the end.
Ibanez-Baldor: Philly in 6. This is the only Eastern Conference series I could see becoming an upset. The Nets expose Philly’s biggest weakness: they don’t have a ball hounding guard. DLO is gonna feast in this series. However, Joel Embiid exists and they have far more star power than the Nets. I am excited to see what Kenny Atkinson schemes up, though.
Lee: 76ers in 6
Oringher: 76ers in 6
Zylstra: Sixers in 7. Brooklyn is sneakily a bad matchup for Philly, who has had trouble guarding quick point guards like D’Angelo Russell all season. Kenny Atkinson will likely outcoach Brett Brown and throw some funky defensive looks at the Sixers, but talent will likely win out, and Jarrett Allen can’t guard Embiid.
(4) Boston Celtics vs. (5) Indiana Pacers
Bornstein: Boston in 6 games. The Pacers will win a couple for Victor Oladipo, but they really needed him for this series. He would have been the difference. Even without Marcus Smart playing, Boston has enough weapons to win. Will they figure it out in time to get to the Finals though?
De Leon: Celtics in 6. The Smart injury is a tough loss, but if Gordon Hayward continues to play well off the bench and playoff Kyrie comes out to play, it’ll be tough for this Pacers team to stop.
Guilbault: Celtics In 5. Indy pulls one out at home, but Boston prevails in the end, even without Marcus Smart.
Ibanez-Baldor: Whoever wins 3 games firsts wins but series goes to 7. The Celtics are a mess. But they have playoff experience and experience in winning messy series’. The Pacers are a stingy defense and they will make the Celtics fight for their points. They will struggle to score themselves as well. The Celtics will overcome the loss of Marcus Smart because his primary role in this series would have been to follow Oladipo who himself is injured.
Lee: Celtics in 6
Oringher: Celtics in 7
Zylstra: Celtics in 5. Although I love Indiana and their effort and team defense, Playoff Kyrie is simply a level above Bojan Bogdanovic, no disrespect.
(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Los Angeles Clippers
Bornstein: GSW in 4 games. There is no way the Clippers can stop anything the Warriors will do and this should be a quick series.
De Leon: Warriors in four. I’m a big fan of the Clippers putting up such a big fight that they are even in the playoffs after trading away their most talented player, and I can see Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell coming up big alongside Gallinari, but the talent disparity is obvious, and the Warriors locomotive is coming full steam ahead.
Guilbault: Warriors In 4. Another fun story with the Clippers, but the Warriors will flip the switch and end this one rather early.
Ibanez-Baldor: Warriors in 4. Explanation: Y’all know.
Lee: Warriors in 5
Oringher: Warriors in 5
Zylstra: Warriors in 4. It was a fun season for the Clippers, but falling to the 8th seed has shown to be a death sentence.
(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs
Bornstein: Denver in 7 games. I think this will be one of the better series in the first round of the playoffs. The Nuggets move the ball well and have a nice young core, but the experience and defensive intensity (when they decide to have it) will be there for the Spurs to make it interesting.
De Leon: Spurs in 7. The Nuggets’ inexperience is a big negative against any team, but especially against a Gregg Popovich-coached San Antonio Spurs team. Denver has looked good all season long, but the question has been how they will look when the games count the most and San Antonio is ready to test the Nuggets’ playoff mettle. Denver will make it a very competitive series, but the Spurs will be able to steal one in the Mile High City that will be a series changer.
Guilbault: Nuggets In 7 – Denver’s late-season inconsistency continues into the first round, but win their home games to cap off a seven-game series.
Ibanez-Baldor: Spurs in 6. The Nuggets are not ready for the playoffs. They stumbled through the last 5th of the season (I watched their last 3 games, even their starters look horrible). Pop will neuter Jokic like Belicheck neutered Gurley. The Nuggets will lose the sixth game in a blowout.
Lee: Nuggets in 7
Oringher: Spurs in 7
Zylstra: Nuggets in 6. Denver is a weak 2-seed, with little playoff experience and a lack of reliable scoring, but the Spurs aren’t that bad of a matchup, and the Nuggets should be able to advance.
(3) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder
Bornstein: OKC in 7 games. I don’t think Portland can overcome the loss of Jusuf Nurkic for a series like this one. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will be excellent, but unfortunately not enough.
De Leon: Thunder in 7. One of the toughest matchups to pick. The Blazers have one of the best starting backcourts in the league, and as well as Enes Kanter is doing in Nurkic’s loss, it’s going to be tough dealing with two players that can regularly produce triple-doubles. OKC got hot at the end of the season and that momentum should carry them forward.
Guilbault: Thunder In 6 – As long as Paul George is truly healthy, Thunder will take this one in a very close six-game series.
Ibanez-Baldor: Thunder in 7. The Blazers have offensive firepower. They have a top 3 guard tandem. Enes Kanter (as I predicted) is feasting in starter minutes. What they don’t have, however, is someone who can even pretend to guard Paul George. “Playoff P” will win this series on his own if he has to. Beyond that, though, OKC has a more complete roster than last year. Jerami Grant is a legit starting power forward and having Dennis Schroeder off the bench is a luxury. The series will be heated but the Blazers will be upset for the second year in a row (and subsequently will blow up their roster in the offseason).
Lee: Blazers in 7
Oringher: Portland in 7
Zylstra: Thunder in 7. This is probably the series I’m most excited for, but with Westbrook guarding Lillard and Enes Kanter on the court, I like the Thunder to pull it out.
(4) Houston Rockets vs. (5) Utah Jazz
Bornstein: HOU in 5 games. The Jazz do not have enough guys around Donovan Mitchell to match the fireworks that will be coming from the Rockets. James Harden, Chris Paul, and their surrounding role players are just too good to lose this series.
De Leon: Rockets in 6. While I don’t think it’s sustainable to have a team that relies so heavily on James Harden, the Jazz just don’t have enough they can throw at the All-Star guard to slow him down. The Harden-Mitchell and Capela-Gobert matchups should be fun to watch though.
Guilbault: Rockets In 5 – Utah will get one at home, and keep games close, but Houston moves on in five games.
Ibanez-Baldor: Houston in 6. This was a tough one to choose. These two teams split the season series and battled hard in last years Western Conference semis. Donovan Mitchell is a year older and (hopefully) won’t fizzle out like last year. The Rockets are also weaker than they were last year. It comes down to this: no one can guard James Harden. Not that Utah doesn’t have someone to guard him. No one in the league can shut him down. Utah can throw as many defenders at him and will still need to account for Chris Paul. The Rockets bench is sneaky as well, with Austin Rivers and Kenneth Faried playing big roles.
Lee: Rockets in 5
Oringher: Rockets in 6
Zylstra: Rockets in 6. Although the rosters aren’t identical, last year’s series proved that Rudy Gobert simply can’t defend pick and roll, and Kyle Korver will get targeted too, resulting in a Houston win.